Ania

AniaHello world!

I’m Ania, the more charming part of Hitch-Hikers Handbook ;)

I’m a Polish girl, teaching English in Spain. When I’m off work I’m a hitchhiker, blogger and photographer.

I’m a language & culture buff always on the lookout for quirky facts and interesting things to learn about the way people live and express themselves around the world. I can speak Polish, English and Spanish, and at some point in my life I was also able to get my point across in German and French, but hey, use it or lose it, as they say.

I’m also a specialist in ultra-cheap living and travelling. I could live off canned goods and bread for weeks :)

I love trying my hand at new things; at the moment I’m learning Russian and travel video making, so if you have any tips for me, please get in touch!

I’m a backgammon addict, culinary aficionado and a beginner swimmer.

I hate spiders, shopping and pretentiousness.

Do you want to know more about me? Go ahead:

I was born in communist Poland, although my memories don’t really go as far back. What I call my hometown is a rather big industrial grayish city in southern Poland, without doubt not a tourist destination. Some would maybe call it a concrete jungle, but I spent there the rather happy days of my childhood and early adulthood. I also did there my MA in psychology and sociology, bloody hard 6 years, if you ask me.

Ania in preikestolen, Norway

Preikestolen, Norway, 2004

I started travelling relatively early, bitten by the same travelling bug as my mother, who hadn’t really had that many opportunities to leave the country before I was born, so she started travelling with me when I was still quite little. I did my first lonely escapade in the age of twenty when I borrowed a friend’s tent and decided to travel around Norway for 3 weeks. Back then I didn’t speak good English, didn’t have much money and didn’t even know what backpacking was, but one day I packed my bag full of canned meals and without booking anything more than a coach ticket to Oslo, hit the road. After 3 weeks I was back in Poland, but I was convinced it was just the beginning of my travels. It turned out to be quite an important and life changing trip, on the back of which I decided to take a year off university and go and live in London a year later.

Nordkapp trip 2005

Arctic Circle – Nordkapp trip 2005

Before moving to London, there was another trip. It was Norway again, for I was (and still am) in love with its coarse northern landscape. It was a motorbike trip across the Arctic Circle and on to Lapland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and back to Poland. Three weeks, seven countries and 7500 km on a pillion.

In London I worked as a waitress in Soho, polishing my English and saving money for another trip. Quite by chance the next trip was Japan, my first solitary trans-continental travel. However, if you are a girl travelling on her own, you are bound to meet and be surrounded by other people, who are always strangely attracted to your girlish boldness.

Ania at Fushimi Inari, Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto, Japan, 2006

So I was never entirely alone. In Japan I met some lovely people and quite made up my mind that this is exactly what I want to do in life. Travel.

I was back in Poland again, trying to finish my university, but dreaming of further and more adventurous travels. I already knew what backpacking was and did some short trips to other European countries (Ukraine, Czech Republic, France). I just couldn’t get travelling out of my system.

In summer 2007, I went on my Western Balkans trip, which I started in Serbia and was planning to travel across Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, and then through Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and back to Poland). That obviously never happened because I met Jon. It was in Skopje, Macedonia. I was sitting at a table, outside the hostel (where both of us were staying), enjoying the evening and chatting to some people, when Jon and his (now our mutual friend) Laura decided to join us. I seem to remember he didn’t interest me in the slightest that evening. I thought him to be rather arrogant and his hideous white hat didn’t help to build a good first impression. Besides, for some reason, I was convinced he was gay.

First day after meeting Jon, Skopje, Mecedonia, 2007

First day after meeting Jon, Skopje, Macedonia, 2007

Only the following day, when we spent some time together, did I realise he was a good laugh and a good companion. And it became quite obvious he wasn’t gay either.

The three of us, Jon, Laura and I, decided to travel together to Ohrid, a beautiful town in south-eastern Macedonia, on the shore of  Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe. It was an absolutely stunning place and we were staying in a hostel, run by a laid back young Finnish guy, which became our inspiration and the beginning of a long-standing dream of opening a hostel ourselves. We were really having a good time together, in consequence of which I never managed to follow my itinerary and never went to Albania. Instead we went to Bulgaria and then to Istanbul from where Jon and I decided to cross the Black Sea on a Russian cargo ship and went to Crimea.  We crossed Ukraine and went to Poland where we spent some good times with my friends in Polish mountains before Jon went on with his trip across central Europe.

Ania at Skeikampen, Norway

Living in Skeikampen, Norway, 2008

After that, we managed to meet once more, when he came from Prague, to meet me in the Czech-Polish border town of Cieszyn. It was then he decided to move to Poland and our relationship started to bloom.

I had three years of uni left, so we knew we were stuck in Poland for that time. We had to figure out how to get through it, without going mad, as our travelling bug was still nipping hard at us. The following summer we went to work in Norway for three months, as it was a pretty good way to get some easy cash just by waiting tables in a hotel. We had amazing crew and saved some money for our next trip to Southeast Asia.

Studying in Toulouse, France

Studying in Toulouse, France, 2008

After living in Norway, I got a scholarship and went for Erasmus to Toulouse in France, while Jon, having a good teaching job in Poland, continued to live in my home town. I learnt some French, met some good people and was back, in what seemed to me, in the blink of an eye.

The Southeast Asia trip was our first longish travel that took almost 15 weeks, which we spent travelling through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And it was when we started to hitch-hike, inspired by our amazing couchsurfing host Ang Huah. It was a totally new quality of travelling for us, during which we encountered indescribable human kindness and felt the wind of adventure.Angkor Wat, Cambodia

In 2010 I finished my second master’s and we were free, we could go anywhere we wanted.

We went to Barcelona. In summer that year we did our CELTA teaching certificates and went for a short hitchhiking and couchsurfing trip round Poland, so as to pay the last tribute to it. When we arrived in Barcelona, we had no jobs and no money, so we surfed some couches to get by till we found something. It was a really hard knock life that month, without a permanent place to stay, without anything certain and with only one white job interview shirt each. We managed to survived though, and have been happily living in Barcelona since then.

In summer 2011 we went for another long hitch-hiking trip across the Caucasus, Turkey and Greece, after which the idea of writing this website started to sprout in our heads.

In the subsequent years we have developed as hitchhikers and travel bloggers and our passion for these two things has grown incessantly. In summer 2012 we hitch-hiked across the Iberian Peninsula, improving our Spanish and understanding of the region; while in 2013 we thumbed the Balkans, drinking rakija and discovering the youngest countries in Europe.

This year we are preparing for the longest hitch-hike we have yet to execute and we are going to give up our jobs in order to travel through Russia, Mongolia, China, Central Asia and Iran. Join us as we discover these new and distant lands and cover over 25,000 km by thumb during our trip “From Iran to Europe – the Long Way Home aka the Hitchhhiking-Cultural Relay“…

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29 comments

  • I love your “about” section! Glad you made all these trips in your life. I also love Norway, we just lived there for the past year. Amazing country! Thank you for writing the blog.

  • Wow, your travels and adventures are those that so many of us dream of and few are able to accomplish. I’ve started perusing this blog and love what I’ve read so far. Great blog, I’m really looking forward to future posts and pictures.

  • I am really happy to find this blog! Your life so far seems really interesting and I hope to follow your path! I wish you all the best on your journeys.

  • Just found you guys, lovely place. I will follow you. Espero que estéis disfrutando de Barcelona.
    Un saludo.

  • To już doczytaliśmy, że jedziecie :-) Powodzenia i będziemy śledzić!

  • sjoerd306@hotmail.com

    Beautiful experiences!

  • Great website guys! A true inspiration!

  • Hi Ania, I ma not sure if you guys already follow this blog – but I suspect you have much in common! http://www.baldhiker.com/ :)

  • I hope that you guys can hitchhike in the United States. Last year Wyoming made it legal to hitchhike in that state. I think you would like to travel in the western United States.

    “Hitchhiking Bill Passes”
    http://www.jhunderground.com/2013/02/22/hitchhiking-bill-passes/

  • Wow – what a great info page! I love the concept of your blog – hitch-hiking and low cost travel. It just proves it doesn’t have to be expensive to see the world. :) Looking forward to reading more of your posts,

  • Great vita! I love travelling and exploring. Look lorward to read more of your travels.

  • Lovely to get to know you guys a little more. You have an impressive resume here Ania :)

    Since i’m from all the way down in Aussie Land it has been a dream to travel the arctic circle. It is the furthest from us with the most contrast. Arghhhh. Too many places to go!!!

    Happy sunday!

    Prue

  • Hello, I found your artictle about Azerbaijan really helpful, thanks! I am going there in a month, especially to hike in northern part and I’d like to know what is the food situation in the villages. Can you just just buy something to eat from the locals? And are the paths signed or not at all. Dzięki za pomoc :)

    • Cześć Dominik!
      I’m glad you found the article helpful. Hiking might be a bit difficult in Azerbaijan as paths are not marked so it’s better to go with a local who knows the way. As for the food, I wouldn’t worry. Although there are no hostels and restaurants in villages I’m sure you will be able to find something if you ask. The best idea is to find a ‘homestay’ and the family who host you will also give you food. It’s not that expensive and I think it’s worth paying for accommodation in this way because if you buy food separately it might cost you the same amount as without accommodation. Another thing is that these village families are usually very poor so if you pay them 6 Euros for boarding and food it is often a significant amount of money that helps them get through the winter. So I think it’s worth staying with a family also for the cultural value of the experience. Good luck! :)

  • Hello Ania!
    Only now I noticed this section of your blog; I really liked finding out more about you and Jon. You’ve so much experience to share that it qould definitely make tens of new posts. I got intrigued by the fact that you’ve worked in Norway waiting tables – my boyfriend and I have a similar plan to go there this summer and hunt for some money for future travels. Could you share some more information with beginners, like how you found it, was it an easy search or it required more effort, where it’s easiest to find a position, etc. We’d be grateful for some advice!
    Also, wishing you good luck on your current trip in Asia that I’m trying to follow, despite few opportunities to connect decently to the internet in Morocco :D Thanks,

    Ewelina (from the blog ewelinalucy.blogspot.com – now inactive; life took over and I decided to focus on here and now while traveling rather than spending time in front of the computer – though still enjoy reading the stories of other travelers!)

    • Hey, Ewelina! Great to hear from you! Norway is a fabulous country and we have been thinking of writing a post about our experience in finding work there but we never found enough time to do it ;)
      It used to be much easier back in 2008-2009 before the crisis and since then we haven’t been successful in doing it online. The way we did it back then was to simply find lots of email addresses and send them our CVs. Once accepted, they sent us the contract and we completed all the other paper work (like tax number and bank account) while in the country.
      The best way to find email addresses is simply looking on Google maps, e.g. type in a name of a city and the word ‘hotel’ and try to find as many as possible, scanning basically the whole map. Once you find the name, type it in google to find their website and their email address. Tedious work, I tell you. It took us weeks to complete the whole Scandinavia (as we also looked for hotels in other countries) but it was worth it, as we did find work eventually. Shame we don’t have the computer where we had the lists, otherwise I would have send you them to save you a lot of time.
      You can also try via agencies, as we met some Latvian girls who got work in the same hotel using a third party, but they obviously earned a lot less.
      Good luck guys and hope it goes well!

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